Updated: Mar 15, 2021
Feature article by Patrick Young
Photo via Pixabay
Accessible homes can make life significantly easier for people living with a disability. Unfortunately, most homes are not built with accessibility in mind, sporting narrow doorways, small bathrooms, step entrances, and high cupboards. If you’ve been house-hunting for an accessible home, you know it’s extremely challenging and a little frustrating. Here are some tips to help you find an accessible home or even one that can be easily modified to fit your needs.
Make a List of Your Requirements
Start by listing out the ideal features you want in your future home. Of course, your exact accessibility needs will depend on your individual disability, but there are some basic features you may want to look out for, including:
Wide doorways to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers
Ground-floor homes with zero-step entrances
Lever-type door handles instead of knobs
Large rooms with plenty of natural lighting
A step-free shower
Consider features you really need, and those that are more likely nice additions. For example, if the home lacks space under the kitchen counters to accommodate a wheelchair, you can add your own kitchen work surface in the form of a low table and a hot plate.
Think about the location of your home and its proximity to public transport, various services, and leisure activities. Are nearby stores wheelchair accessible? Are the sidewalks properly cared for? Is the landscape flat or hilly? New Mobility has compiled a great list of disability-friendly cities to consider if you’re not quite sure where to move.
Begin Your House Search
Before you turn to online house hunting, find and talk to a good real estate agent first. They can help you narrow down your housing search to homes with disability access, and assist you in gauging whether a home offers the groundwork for modifications. Before selecting an agent, make sure you give them a thorough interview and ask them about fees, their experience, and why they’re the best agent for the job.
If you're looking for an apartment, you’ll likely search online so be sure to filter your results by "year built" to find apartment buildings constructed after 1991. These buildings must comply with accessibility requirements under the Fair Housing Act. You can also conduct a simple Google search for accessible homes or apartments in your desired city — you may even discover a local website dedicated to disabled house hunters in your area.
Follow a New-Home Checklist
Once you’ve found the right home, there are still a few things to do before you move in. Start by planning how you’ll make the physical move. Moving is a huge task, so consider hiring a professional moving company to assist you. Be sure to research and compare local companies, and get at least three quotes before you settle on one. Start by ensuring your home is properly secured by immediately changing your locks. You’ll also want to transfer your utilities, schedule your TV and internet installation, and forward your mail. Finally, consider booking a home cleaning service and a contractor to make any necessary home improvements so your new place feels as comfortable as possible.
Understand Your Rights
Even if you’re renting an apartment or home, you have the right to make reasonable home modifications under the Fair Housing Act. For example, landlords must give you permission to make necessary modifications to your home, though you may be required to restore the interior to its previous condition when you move out. Also, new buildings must have at least one accessible entrance and accessible common areas. You can learn more about your fair housing rights from the National Fair Housing Advocate Online.
Learn About Your Financial Assistance Options
Of course, you will have to pay for any home modifications you make. Fortunately, there are several federal, state, and local housing assistance programs that can help you fund your necessary home modifications. For example, the USDA Rural Development Program supplies rural homeowners with grants and loans to help people with disabilities make appropriate home modifications.
Since less than 5 percent of U.S. housing is accessible, finding the perfect disability-friendly home can be a massive headache. Still, one-third of homes are potentially modifiable. Be ready to make a few compromises and come up with your own modification plans. On the plus side, this will allow you to customize your home to better suit your unique needs. And if you do find the perfect accessible home, snatch it up before someone else does!
Written By Patrick Young